University of Pittsburgh School of Education

How can I use the "I Can't Stop Writing" strategy to help students with writer's block?

By Sandy Preston, Muhlenberg Teacher

Have you ever had one of those children with a chronic case of writer's block? Of course you have! We all have! As a matter of fact, we've probably had more than we can count! I remember one student who drew all over his paper during writing block to create the illusion that he was actually producing a piece of writing. Then there was another student who had the most amazing imagination but wasted it thinking up new and more creative ways to avoid the physical act of actually using his pencil to write words. We all suffer from writer's block from time to time, but let's face it, some kids over-use the affliction. Getting these kids to write can be a challenge, to say the least!

Recently, on the Teachers.Net chatboard (my favorite place on the Internet), I discovered a method created by Jim Hall, husband of Four Blocks co-creator Dottie Hall, to help with this very dilemma. It's called "I can't stop writing." Here's how it works. When a child is assigned to write and finds herself stumped, with no idea what to say, she writes, "I can't stop writing. I can't stop writing. I can't stop writing..." over and over again until she gets an idea, at which time she picks up right where she left off with her story. The next time she gets stumped, she repeats the process, "I can't stop writing. I can't stop..." When the rough draft is finished, the repeated phrases can be edited out easily.

This strategy eliminates writer's block as an avoidance technique for students who are reluctant to write, and it keeps the students who legitimately have writer's block on task while they wait for an idea to formulate. The key here, as with all Four Blocks writing lessons, is to model the process several times. Hopefully, before long, your students truly will be unable to stop writing! And that's a good thing!